Pfizer restarts production at tornado-hit plant—but supply squeezes are expected to persist

In the aftermath of a devastating summer tornado at Pfizer’s Rocky Mount injectables plant in North Carolina, manufacturing has largely resumed. Still, the company expects supply shortfalls for some drugs produced at the plant to stretch into next year.

The “majority” of the Rocky Mount facility’s manufacturing lines have restarted, Pfizer said in a Monday release. What’s more, Pfizer has launched an additional line in the site’s new sterile injectable manufacturing area, dubbed R3, the company added.

The “expedited restart” comes ahead of Pfizer's previously stated timeline. Late last month, Pfizer said it intended to restart manufacturing at the plant the fourth quarter of 2023.

Pfizer is restarting production in phases, with full production across the site’s three manufacturing suites expected to come back online by the end of the year.

The company has planned its production restarts based on patient need and inventory levels. There are roughly a dozen medicines in production on the lines that have restarted, including products that are currently available through Pfizer’s emergency ordering process

Still, Pfizer cautioned that some medicines may not be back in full supply until next year, noting that the impacts from the July tornado will likely weigh on supplies until “at least mid-2024.’

In the meantime, Pfizer will continue to run its emergency ordering process indefinitely. Moving forward, whenever inventory levels allow, Pfizer will also intermittently ship out additional inventory.

The Rocky Mount site, which employs more than 3,000 full-time workers and contractors, got its start in 1968. The facility produces nearly 50 drugs, including anesthesia agents, analgesic drugs and micronutrients. Together, those Rocky Mount medicines make up roughly 25% of Pfizer’s sterile injectables used in U.S. hospitals. That’s roughly equivalent to 8% of the total U.S. hospital supply, according to Pfizer.

Pfizer got its hands on the facility in 2015 when it purchased Hospira for $17 billion.